HomeRethinking the History of the Rust Belt since 1945

Rethinking the History of the Rust Belt since 1945

Repenser l'histoire de la Rust Belt depuis 1945

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Published on Tuesday, October 02, 2018 by Anastasia Giardinelli

Summary

This region, stretching from western New York to eastern Iowa, was until the middle of the 20th century the country's manufacturing and industrial heartland. From the Great Migrations that radically transformed its demographics to the weakening of its economic model, as well as the massive struggles waged by local workers and protagonists of the Civil Rights movement, the political and social history of the Rust Bel. By bringing into dialogue the ongoing or recently completed research of doctoral students and junior academics with a view to opening up new perspectives on the history of the Rust Belt, from a range of disciplines (history, sociology, political science, geography), we intend to highlight spaces and actors too often relegated to the margins of this region’s history, despite their having decisively contributed to shaping the contemporary Rust Belt

Announcement

December 7, 2018, Sorbonne University

CREA (Paris Nanterre University) & HDEA (Sorbonne University)

Presentation

Nearly two years after white working-class voters (often presented as epitomizing the Midwest) “rebelled” on the occasion of the presidential elections (Michael McQuarrie "The Revolt of the Rust Belt: Place and Politics in the Age of Anger", 2017), Black American writer and journalist Tamara Winfrey Harris spoke out against the invisibilization of minorities in the depiction of this region. In a punchy-titled editorial— "Stop Pretending Black Midwesterners Do Not Exist" —published in the New York Times (June 16, 2018), she reminded us that her black woman's face is an integral part of a region that is much more diverse and complex than it appears.

This region, stretching from western New York to eastern Iowa, was until the middle of the 20th century the country's manufacturing and industrial heartland. From the Great Migrations that radically transformed its demographics to the weakening of its economic model, as well as the massive struggles waged by local workers and protagonists of the Civil Rights movement, the political and social history of the Rust Belt has been well-documented (see, among others,  Jefferson Cowie, Stayin 'Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, 2010; Nelson Lichtenstein, State of the Union: A Century of American Labor, 2002; Judith Stein, Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies, 2011, Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North, 2008).

The Atelier de Recherche sur les Espaces Anglophones (AREA), a workshop run by doctoral students affiliated with the research center Histoire et Dynamique des Espaces Anglophones (HDEA, EA 4086) from Sorbonne University, is co-organizing with the Centre de Recherches Anglophones (CREA, EA 370) from Paris Nanterre University a study day for post-graduate students and young researchers with a view to opening up new perspectives on the history of the Rust Belt. By bringing into dialogue the ongoing or recently completed research of doctoral students and junior academics from a range of disciplines (history, sociology, political science, geography), we intend to highlight spaces and actors too often relegated to the margins of this region’s history, despite their having decisively contributed to shaping the contemporary Rust Belt.

If, in the field of urban studies, the works of Historians Arnold Hirsch (Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960, 1983), Thomas Sugrue (The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Politics in Postwar Detroit, 1997) or, more recently, Berryl Satter (Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America, 2010) have helped make Chicago and Detroit classic case studies for the region’s race relations, other areas deserve similar attention. Cleveland, for example, was the first major white city to elect an African-American mayor (1967), thanks in part to the kind of broad political engagement that Barack Obama would spark on a national scale nearly forty years later. In her recent book, historian Nishani Frazier reminds us how the local Black Power movement influenced and shaped the ideological trajectory of the national civil rights organization CORE, making Cleveland, as well as Baltimore, theaters of historically innovative experiments that have often been overlooked in accounts of black liberation struggles (Harambee City: The Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the Rise of Black Power Populism, 2017).

This workshop will also be an opportunity to expand on and complicate the narratives of economic/demographic decline and revival that scholars have used to describe the Rust Belt. While Donald Trump's 2016 success in the states comprising the area has established the image of a Rust Belt hostile to immigration and multiculturalism, the growing number of first-generation Latinx immigrants living in the region’s cities has helped to stabilize and revitalize once-moribund urban spaces (AK Sandoval-Strausz, "Latino Landscapes: Postwar Cities and the Transnational Origins of a New Urban America", 2014). This largely overlooked process of "latinization" of certain neighborhoods, such as Miller Street in Milwaukee or Pilsen-Little Village in Chicago, offers new perspectives on the urban and migratory history of the United States. Although rarely thought of as multicultural, the Rust Belt is indeed the home to diverse ethnic and racial communities. Another notable example is the city of Dearborn, Michigan, which has decisively contributed to the integration of the country’s Arab community into the national historical narrative since the opening in 2005 of the Arab American National Museum, the only one in the country entirely devoted to the history and culture of Arab Americans.

 

Finally, the success of downtown revitalization policies in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis invites us to examine their social consequences as well as the political and socio-economic contexts that led to their emergence (Tracy Neumann, Remaking the Belt Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America, 2016). The city of Youngstown, Ohio, is another telling example of how more peripheral spaces can drive innovation in urban planning. Marked by dramatic deindustrialization in the late 1970s, Youngstown became in the 2000s a national model of "smart shrinkage", a policy aiming, among others, to depopulate certain declining neighborhoods. In sharp contrast to traditional growth-oriented approaches, this kind of urban planning also offers interesting perspectives for understanding the spatial mutations of the Rust Belt ("Shrinking ‘Smart', "Urban Redevelopment and Shrinkage in Youngstown, Ohio", James Rhodes & John Russo, 2013).

In addition to the topics that have already been suggested in the above text, the papers may deal with the following themes (the list is not exhaustive):

Spaces, migrations and territorial restructuring

  • Metropolitan transformation: Great Migrations; white and black flights; the New Great Migration; gentrification and the return of millennials to the city
  • The rural Rust Belt
  • The "global" Midwest and immigration

Politics, resistance and dissenting voices in the Rust Belt

  • Political demands and participation of ethnic, racial and gender minorities
  • The reintegration of the Northeast and Midwest into the historiography of conservatism
  • Expressions of resistance through indy media and artistic production

Economy and labor force

  • Transformations in trade unionism
  • The development of new economic activities and alternative economic models

State and public policy

  • Transformations in local governance and urban services
  • The social history of the War on Poverty and its detractors
  • The carceral state and the War on Drugs

Research fields and methodology In order to highlight the plurality of methodological approaches, the workshop will include a brainstorming session on the sources and approaches used by participants. We invite young researchers to speak on the following topics (among others):

  • Archival work and oral history
  • Sociological fieldwork
  • Mapping and spatial approaches
  • Feedback and presentation of research fields

Submission Guidelines

Proposals for papers, which should be approximately 300 words long and accompanied by a short bio, must be sent:

  • before October 12, 2018

  • to areasorbonne@gmail.com

Paper presentations will be given in English and should be limited to 20 minutes. For the methodology session, the format is more flexible and a 10-minute presentation is acceptable.

Organizing committee

  • Grégory Bekhtari (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Tamara Boussac (Sorbonne Université)
  • Marion Marchet (Sorbonne Université)

Places

  • Paris, France (75005)

Date(s)

  • Friday, October 12, 2018

Attached files

Keywords

  • American Studies, Urban Studies, Social History, Urban Sociology, Urban Geography, Corpus approaches, Surveys, Archives

Contact(s)

  • Grégory Bekhtari
    courriel : gregorybekhtari [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Grégory Bekhtari
    courriel : gregorybekhtari [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Rethinking the History of the Rust Belt since 1945 », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, October 02, 2018, https://calenda.org/481563

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